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Some time ago we picked up an old 4″ Rossi M68 figuring that I would customize it as a range pistol for Linda. Before I could really get it properly sorted she got another Kahr E9 which she loves desperately. The Rossi has become my ‘bench gun,’ the gun that I experiment and try new things on.  I’ve learned a lot of useful and potentially useful things, which is good because it is a part-for-part clone of a S&W J-frame. Hey, if I’m going to wreck a gun experimenting I’d rather it be a cheap one!

Went through a couple of custom grips, shortened the barrel to 2-1/4″ and re-crowned it, worked on the springs and mechanism etc.  Recently I decided to see how small one could make a J-frame without compromising function or shootability. I modified the grip-frame and cut down the existing grips. It was definitely easier to hide, but it became unreliable as the firing-pin bushing became worn. The easiest way to replace this was with the barrel removed. I fabricated a new bushing and staked it in, then got to looking at the gun and thought ‘If that barrel were shorter it would be even more concealable…”

Since the barrel was already out of the gun I ground off the front sight, chucked it up in the lather and turned down the back of the barrel and extended the threads. I measured it and cut the forcing cone to length. I then measured and cut the ejector to length and carefully filed the forcing cone until the cylinder would close comfortably. I used a tapered reamer to re-cut the forcing cone and installed and pinned the barrel and I was in business. I still hadn’t mounted a new front sight but I wanted to test the gun with live ammunition, so it was off the Champion Arms indoor gun range. Of course there was no point in taking just one gun, but we’ll get back to that.

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So how did it work? Pretty well for a gun with no sights. No rounds keyholed or otherwise misbehaved. Recoil was quite mild with target wadcutters and easily managed. I didn’t see any point in trying for accuracy; basically I ran a target out to five yards, pointed the gun and blazed away. Two cylinders full produced this- proof of why sights are necessary!

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As I said, no point in taking just one gun… I ran a box of ammo through the Colt Frontier Scout, but results were less than spectacular- I had real trouble seeing the sights. Very nice gun to shoot regardless.

I also took along the Egyptian Contract Beretta M1951. I’d function-tested it but never really wrung it out. A couple of boxes of reloads changed that, and the gun continues to function flawlessly. The only stoppage was when I didn’t seat the magazine properly and it dropped just far enough to prevent the next round from feeding. Seven-yard targets shot at the 1-shot-per-second rate (or maybe just a bit faster…) allowed by the range rules produced results pretty consistently like this-

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Pleasant to shoot and reliable- but I very much want to paint the front sight red.

Finally I trotted out The Shopkeeper. I recently became re-acquainted with how much I enjoy shooting this gun and happily burned through a box of ammo. Results were pretty much what I have come to expect-

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Five shots in five seconds at seven yards. I’m Okay with this! This gun genuinely works for me- well enough that I wouldn’t feel completely stupid carrying it, though the reload sucks…

Anyway a nice way to enter the holidays and a pleasant afternoon.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  23 December 2017


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